Gorbachev - The man who ended the Soviet and the cold war.

Michail Sergeyevich Gorbachev - praiseworthy man of the century

Perestroika (renewal), glasnost (openness)  Polarized world East against West  Decolonising the Eastern block  Benefits of Openness  Soviet Communist Socialist failure  
by our Civic World correspondent.    To Previous  Click here to contact us  Back to home page

Perestroika - renewal, Glasnost - openness
Michail Sergejevic Gorbachev, Soviet President 1985-91, is no doubt the greatest contributor to the end of the Cold War and most certainly to the relatively peaceful last two decennia of the 20th century (peaceful except for the war battles in the Middle East and the Balkans inspired and fought by western Allied forces against Iraq and parts of the former Yugoslavia). A very intelligent realist, practical and very diplomatic leader who succeeded Brezhnev as head of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, Gorbachev conceived and tactfully introduced "Perestroika" - a reconstruction or renewal of the socialist principle. Born in Stavropol in the northern Caucasus in 1931 to a farming family that had suffered severely in the Marxist-Leninist domination of Russia. As communism expanded, overwhelmed the neighbouring countries to form the Soviet Union and imposed iron-fist totalitarian, a centrally planned system emerged under Stalin - the despotic leader in whose regime more than 15 million people perished and another 16 million were imprisoned. Excluding the world war casualties of 20 million, it is estimated that up to 65 million dead resulted from the soviet experiment with communism before Gorbachev dismantled the Soviet Union in 1989. In Perestroika, Gorbachev envisioned "glasnost" or openness as a way to combat the rustic, secretive, excessively bureaucratic soviet administration that severely crippled production, sustained corruption, wrecked the economy and the environment, alienated farmers, workers and the common man and induced distrust at all levels of human contact; not the least of which international distrust. Back to top

Polarized world - East against West. Back to top
The Communist Revolution of 1917, two Germany-instigated world wars and the resulting western response in Allied armament (NATO) and world politics, had produced a most dangerously polarized world of East and West deeply engaged in a cold war. The soviet boundary - the iron curtain - marked the edge of the eastern block. The USA and its allies in the western block dominated world opinion through new information media. New York subways were carrying huge posters to remind the American population that the soviets had twice to thrice the weapons required to destroy the USA, but that the USA had enough weapons to destroy the Soviet Union eight times over. At least in all major US cities and certainly in all west European settlements, radioactive fallout shelters were set up as places of refuge in case of a soviet attack which never came. Even till now (2002), every Dutch town still sounds its serene alarm-drill weekly or monthly, to ensure preparedness of its citizens for any enemy air attacks. Measured against this background, the success of Perestroika and Glasnost goes far beyond the three-headed policy that Gorbachev deployed to change soviet culture, politics and economy. For he, more than anyone else in the last century, genuinely sought, conscientiously negotiated and vigorously implemented a disarmament plan aimed at neutral world peace, beyond purely nationalistic interests. Shallow American self interest as pursued by US president George W. Bush is in sharp contrast to Gorbachev's outstandingly constructive diplomacy. Back to top

Decolonising the Eastern block  Back to top
As if that does not already make him a hero of mankind, let us add that Gorbachev very articulately encouraged the member states of the Soviet Union to free themselves of Russian domination and seek self determination. This policy did have a tremendous benevolent impact on countries like Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Georgia, and many more of the 130 peoples previously under the soviet umbrella, as is evident in the present trend of their political and economic progress. Gorbachev will go down in history as the man whose Perestroika opened the way for the reunification of East and West Germany, the overthrow of Ceauceausci's reckless dictatorship in Rumania, the reunion of North and South Vietnam, the new openness of contacts between North and South Korea and the withdrawal of Soviet economic sponsorship of Fidel Castro's dictatorship over Cuba. The recent dissolution of former Tito-dominated Yugoslavia into self-governing nations would not have been possible if soviet imposed communism had not been pulled down by Gorbachev's "glasnost". In fact, the recent wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, were the direct result of Serbian political overlords attempting to retain their communist era stronghold on these peoples against their will, to the unfair advantage of Serbia.  Back to top

Benefits of Openness: Back to top
Gorbachev deserves praise as the one truly world-class politician who held world interest above personal and national interest in his incessant negotiation of disarmament with the USA, with western Europe and within the United Nations disarmament program against nuclear proliferation in the 20th century. A drastic reduction of the 17 million man soviet civil service and, democratic improvements helped open the way for the voice of opposition, enabled private entrepreneurship, opened up business access to private capital including the stock market and saw an open return of the public to the churches. These are present realities that were absolutely unthinkable before Gorbachev's "perestroika". Ensuing relative tolerance of press freedom makes the exposure of various Mafia practices possible, just as the freer movement of people opens up new horizons for self development and the absorption of technology from other countries; quite apart from the direct impacts of better international trade with the wider non-Soviet world.  Back to top

Soviet Communist Socialist failure: Back to top
At the root of what went wrong in the 70-year soviet drama that held 1/7th of the earth surface backwards unnecessarily, is the fact that Leninist Communist principles and centralized planning were based on untested theories formulated by Karl Marx and Engel using western European industrialized development history which Lenin and Stalin applied to heavily agricultural Slavic-Asiatic eastern society, thereby ignoring essential cultural and infrastructural differences. This spelt disaster by creating egocentric, deceptive, hypocritical, unreliable officials with no initiative, rude, without conscience and yet pretending to have monopoly of the truth.The threat of Gorbachev's policy to these corrupt party fanatics, accounts for his impopularity among the very Russian society he has done so much for. In the west, his far reaching disarmament has dealt a blow to the weapon industry that now finds new chances in their lobby with George W. Bush.
Back to top

Readings: Extracts from: Back to top
- Gorbatsjov en de vorming van het nieuwe Rusland by Harrie Salman
(ISBN 90 -73020-02-6) Carrousel Amsterdam 1990).
- Perestroika - a vision for my country and the world by Michail Gorbachev 1987
- Michail S. Gorbachev - An intimate biography by the editors of Time 1988.

Back to top

 Back to top  To Previous  Click here to contact us  Back to home page

Copyright © 1997-2002 Civic World All rights reserved:.Last Revised: 20-09-2002